The original lion statue and its replacementImage copyright
Mike Sonko/Facebook

Image caption

The ‘ugly lion’ became a laughing stock on Twitter

A new sculpture of a lion with a shaggy mane in the Kenyan capital Nairobi has been replaced after it got ridiculed on social media.

Since it was placed in the middle of the University Way roundabout at the beginning of last week, bewildered motorists and pedestrians have been stopping to take pictures of the beast, which quickly became a talking point in the national press and a figure of fun on Twitter.

One Twitter user pleaded: “Please guys help Sonko (Nairobi’s governor) get a better Lion. What he has put is an embarrassment to the nation.”

But residents woke up on Saturday morning to find that the “ugly lion” had been replaced with a new one, and no longer adorned with faux fur. One Twitter user proclaimed the result “the power of social media”.

“In the quite and chills of the night when Nairobi was deep asleep, Sonko replaced the stuffed lion with an acceptable lion statue,” the tweet said.

‘Cartoon version’

Image copyright
Mike Sonko/Facebook

Image caption

The Nairobi governor reassured critics that the sculpture was ‘coming along perfectly’

Nairobi governor Mike Sonko explained in a lengthy Facebook post that the original statue was a “dummy” – put there merely for measurement purposes – and “certainly not the real deal yet”.

“The ‘lion’ that went viral was put there just to help our local artists in taking measurements and to guide the positioning for the proper installation and final artwork including trimming of the artificial hair and edges then final polishing which is now 75% done,” Mr Sonko wrote, illustrating his post by attaching ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos.

“Nothing good ever gets done overnight!”, he exclaimed, and went on to point out that even Michelangelo “didn’t bring the perfect artwork to the site on day one.”

Mr Sonko assured his “lovely critics” that the final statue “is coming along perfectly and will be finished soon for all to see and marvel”.

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The artist behind the work, Oshoto Ondula, is also in the spotlight. He confirmed that the original statue was only a cartoon version.

Nairobi residents are familiar with Mr Ondula’s works – he has created many sculptures as part of Nairobi’s beautification programme. And he is certainly not a novice – one of his works dates back to 1983, when he was commissioned by President Daniel arap Moi to create an artwork for Queen Elizabeth during her state visit to Kenya.

The new lion is already proving popular with foreign visitors. Several have tweeted photos of themselves posing next to it.

As one report in the Kenyan Digest put it, “at least it bears some resemblance to the king of the jungle”.

Reporting by Krassi Twigg

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